Brickyard Test Session

SPEEDWAY, IN.- - Winston Cup teams are testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week in preparation for the Brickyard 400 on August 1. For Jeff Gordon, deciding to test at the Brickyard was an obvious choice. As a result of his victory in the Coca Cola 600 in May, Gordon has a chance to win $1,000,000 if he wins the Brickyard 400. Indianapolis is one of the few tracks on the circuit where the defending Winston Cup champion is cheered by more fans than he is booed. His 1994 victory in the inaugural race was widely popular since Gordon grew up in nearby Pittsboro, Indiana.

What follows are the daily testing reports from the Brickyard. It's not written in press release style, so it should be fairly enjoyable to read.

By Brian Holly

Monday, July 13

The DuPont transporter arrived at the track at about 1:30 in the afternoon.
Indiana boy on an Indiana night
Jeff won the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994.
By 4 pm, two cars were unloaded and ready in the garage area. A few drivers, such as Steve Park and Jimmy Spencer, were already on the track but Gordon will wait until Tuesday to begin his testing period at the Brickyard.

Tuesday, July 14

Most Winston Cup teams were represented in the garage area. Fans filled the south grandstand armed with cameras, coolers, and the like. Don't people work on Tuesdays? I'd imagine that a number of employers in the Indianapolis area had a number of employees "call in sick" for a few days this week to watch practice. The ailment? That dreaded disease called "NASCAR-itis." To my knowledge, there is no known cure. Not like anyone would want an elixir for it anyway.

Partly cloudy skies were over the speedway throughout the day. In terms of air temperature, it was a pleasant 80 degrees. With sunny skies and 94 degrees forecast for Thursday, the team will be able to test the car under a number of different track temperatures. Which is what testing is all about; finding the right shock and gear combinations to find the fastest lap based on how the car responds to the track. That's testing, in a nutshell. The car that Jeff tested wasn't fully painted; most test cars aren't. The front and back was a basic gray with a green and yellow stripe on the hood. Of course, the familiar yellow #24 on the door made the car easy to spot out on the track. In terms of speed, Joe Nemechek turned the fastest lap of the day. Speeds were generally in the 172-175 mile per hour range. As testing continues this week, speeds will likely pick up some.

Wednesday, July 15

Another cloudy and humid day at the Brickyard. The crowd seems a little larger today than yesterday, but that's to be expected. Though the speedway is open for testing beginning at 9 am, there is hardly anyone around that early. But, the action begins shortly after that as the engines roar to life. The sun came out at brief times throughout the day, but never enough to get an adequate suntan. Speeds were generally in the 175 mile per hour range. For the second straight day, Joe Nemecheck turned the fastest lap. Needless to say, the garage area was full of activity. The forecast for Thursday is sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 80's.

Thursday, July 16

While the Winston Cup teams will continue to test at the Brickyard through next week, today is our last day in Hoosier Country. Today was going to be the warmest day of the week with temperatures expected to rise into the upper 80's. After the 20 mile drive (within the speed limit of course) from the Marriott to the track, the skies turned partly cloudy and it was humid (to put it mildly). Talk about driver changes and rumors of more on the way dominated most of the conversation today. Did Jerry Nadeau get a raw deal from Elliott-Marino Racing? Probably. After all, every driver that gets fired feels he could have done better if only the car was up to speed. The only way to judge that is to put someone else in the car and see what happens.

As for on track activity, the "usual" testing practices were underway again. Take a few laps, go to the garage, change a shock, or a gear, go back out, turn some laps, come back in. At a few points during the day, cars are able to run alongside one another and in tight packs. It produces some nerve-wracking laps but it's the only way to see how the car will perform under race conditions. Eighteen-year-old Casey Atwood turned some laps in the McDonalds car. He'll be racing at the Brickyard in a few years; might as well get used to the place. Joe Nemechek once again turned the fastest lap followed by Jeremy Mayfield and Ernie Irvan with laps in the 175 mile per hour range. Though this week was only a test session, it had the atmosphere of a regular race weekend with reporters running around the garage area looking for a story. The only thing it lacked was a capacity crowd. But, the crowds will arrive in a few weeks time. The Brickyard was busy this week during testing, but wait until the caravan arrives for real on August 1.

Brian Holly wishes to thank Marriott for the great accomodations this week. Though, he wishes the morning coffee was a little stronger.

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